As you may know, I'm not a big fan of drugs. Too many doctors use them indiscriminately to treat symptoms without looking for the cause of the problem. The problem with drugs is that they all have side effects. But I'm not always against using drugs. There are times when the benefits outweigh the side effects. And there are times when the side effects are actually good. Such is the case with a common antidepressant.
In this case, the drug may stop the progression of beta amyloid. This is the main ingredient in plaques associated with Alzheimer's disease. So if the drug actually stops the progression of this plaque, then it could help reduce your risk of Alzheimer's disease.
This new research came out of the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and the University of Pennsylvania. The researchers found that the antidepressant citalopram stopped the growth of plaques in mice. They conducted the study by giving a single dose of the drug to young adults who were cognitively healthy. That single dose lowered the production of beta amyloid by 37%.
This doesn't surprise me. I've talked a lot about depression and dementia. Many people with depression have symptoms of dementia – and their doctors diagnose dementia rather than depression. There's obviously a very close connection between the two devastating brain conditions.
So should you take an antidepressant to prevent Alzheimer's? For most of us, the answer is no.
Senior author John Cirrito, PhD, assistant professor of neurology at Washington University said it best. He explained, "Antidepressants appear to be significantly reducing amyloid beta production, and that's exciting. But while antidepressants generally are well tolerated, they have risks and side effects. Until we can more definitively prove that these drugs help slow or stop Alzheimer's in humans, the risks aren't worth it. There is still much more work to do."
However, if you're at high risk for Alzheimer's or you've already started to show signs that you have the disease, you might want to talk to your doctor about trying citalopram. Again, this isn't for everyone, but there are some cases where antidepressants may be the best choice.
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For anyone with a history of Alzheimer's disease in their family, or who has been diagnosed with early Alzheimer's, taking citalopram may be better than this progressive, incurable disease.
Your voice of reason in Women's Health,
Dr. Janet Zand
Washington University in St. Louis. "Antidepressant may slow Alzheimer's disease." ScienceDaily, 14 May 2014.